An Unfortunate Episode: The Facts of Life “Starstruck”

Enter angry tomboy Jo, with her big ol’ accent. She reminds Tootie, “You’re supposed to be making scarves for the FAY-yuh.” You know, the Scholarship FAY-yuh that Jo is organizing? Tootie blows her off, because she’s too busy ordering minions to sort JJ memorabilia. Jo gets pissier and stomps out to the dining area where vapid rich girl Blair and her comedian cousin Geri are assembling the mobiles to sell at the fair. Apparently, Eastland’s big demand for scarves and mobiles will fuel this fundraiser. Jo says, “We gotta raise enough money for this girl’s food, tuition and books!” So, they’re organizing an entire fair for a single student’s scholarship? Must be awesome to be that one-and-only poor kid!

Enter school newspaper reporter Natalie and dietician/house mom Mrs. Garrett. Natalie is working on the wording for a description of Mrs. G’s fruit bars (for the FAY-yuh!). Mrs. Garret recoils at words like “tantalizing” and “titillating”, telling Natalie that her marketing tools are more appropriate for “the Pussycat Theater.” This is when Jo absolutely loses her shit over x-rated cookies and Tootie’s MIA scarves, which are “the biggest attraction.” I take this to mean the Steven Tyler Fan Club eclipses the JJFC on Eastland’s campus.

Tootie enters with her still-veiled sculpture, clearly not giving two shits about Jo’s problems. Natalie — who claims to have taught Tootie the ways of being a slightly unhinged superfan — admires her friend’s club leadership. Tootie responds, “At this moment I feel very close to Ronald Reagan.” The studio audience laughs and one guy shouts, “Woo!” Yeah, give that appraisal about thirty years, bub.

Finally Tootie unmasks her partially assembled bust, which is grey and gross like all papier mache works in progress. Then she bemoans the fact that she’s missing JJ’s show because stupid Mrs. Garrett wouldn’t let her camp out for tickets in Times Square (which, in 1982, was the location of many Pussycat Theaters). Nevertheless, she predicts Jermaine will be super geeked to open his gift, see her name and say…

“Tootie who?” chimes in Jo. This is when the roomies break it to Ms. Fan Club President that JJ gives not two shits about her. But the letter! With the signature! Natalie says it’s a stamp. Jo spits on it to prove the point. Tootie flips out at this act of desecration, tells Natalie she’s incapable of understanding, and storms off. Then Natalie says the obligatory line from every dopey sitcom of the era – “I’ve created a monster!”

Cut to the day of the FAY-yuh/concert. As Joe is running around in headless chicken mode, Tootie saunters in with her completed Jermaine Jackson sculpture. Natalie compliments its life-like appearance, touches the nose, and rips off the tip by accident. This causes the first of Tootie’s many high-pitched meltdowns. Mrs. Garrett pulls Tootie aside, assures her they’ll fix JJ’s face, then chides the young girl for missing some recent English assignments. Of course, Tootie’s been too busy with Jermaine b-day prep to do anything useful. That’s when she reveals to Jo that she’s completed not two dozen, but zero scarves for the FAY-yuh.

Jo is reasonably pissed. Tootie gets indignant and brings it all back to Jermaine. “He’s a friend! And this scholarship is for some girl I don’t even know!” That’s the spirit. Start the class shaming early, before you’ve even met.

Jo responds, “She’s someone just like me. And last yea-UH, she was me.” Ooh, damn. Hey, where’s this year’s charity case? Why isn’t she helping?!?

Just as Tootie is promising to be a real good Scholarship Fair helper, Natalie pops in and says she has a phone call… from Jermaine Jackson’s publicity man!! Once Tootie works up the nerve to take the call, dude on the other end informs her she’s getting a free pair of tickets for being such a great fan/cult leader. After she hangs up, Tootie boasts to her classmates about the giveaway and squeals, “It’s a miracle!”

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Tara Rose
About Tara Rose 106 Articles
Since 2009, Tara has been writing snarky essays about pop culture, motherhood and her various neuroses at Rare Oats. She spends most of her other time selling cheese, raising a small human and goofing off with her husband Dan. E-mail: tara@whatelseison.tv
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